People don’t think about it much, it doesn’t seem to have boiled over into the general discussion, especially in the United States, but our lives have changed immensely in the past thirty years. People think that revolutions apply only to for example the will of the citizenry to combat an oppressive state, or an artistic movement.
However it was Marx’s contention that it was a function of capitalism to evince cycles of crises, subsequently making a rather different sort of revolution necessary.
The last came in the 70’s, when Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Regan converted their economies from a state-controlled or Keynesian welfare system to a Neoliberal, deregulated model; this was largely because inflation grew to the point that it threatened not only the macroeconomy but also the greater microeconomy. In a shift, financial development and the flow of capital came to be seen as the best way to encourage growth, flawed policies that the IMF aggressively pursued in vulnerable developing economies. The financial crisis of the 90’s, the so-called and obfuscating “bursting of the tech-bubble”, reflected the strain that developing nations throughout the world we put under by rapid market reform.
I don’t need to go into much detail (thanks to the diligent work of others) about the negative consequences of globalization and world trade. There are a few interesting misconceptions about its successes, however.
In fact, according to Fletcher Baragar, profitability and growth (for Canadian firms but I infer that the same is true for America and the rest of the West) actually has diminished since the 1960’s. This lead to the paring of the work force, from full-time jobs with benefits that engender consumption (based on the Keynesian/Fordist principles) to subcontracting and part-time workers with less protections or assurances. Yet the Government did not step in to fill this role, instead devoting itself on maintaining a budget deficit, deregulated open streams of capital, and a strong military and subsidizing/condoning private profit.
Today we are suffering a new limit on profitability – the fact that income disparity had increased for decades did not constitute a “crisis” until the exploitation, foreclosures, and outstanding debt began to damage banks and other financial institutions – and a departure from the Neoliberal ideology (to say nothing of its successor, Neoconservatism). Capitalism must now reevaluate itself, and although it will not disappear, it is comforting to think that maybe we have reached the workable boundaries in terms of open markets and inalienable rights of corporations to exploit and develop without oversight or competing spheres of power (worker/communal-based).
So now we are now undergoing another revolution of sorts; staunch Neoliberal notions concerning the proper role of capitalism go out with the bathwater in order to salvage the inherently unfair capitalist system. Now governments are bailing out the banks and other firms with massive and nigh unthinkable (merely a year ago) handouts.
The silver lining to the current worldwide recession is that the hideous certainty and consent driving capitalism is gone, momentum is stagnant and actually reversing. But a scarred landscape remains.
The way we live today is markedly different from thirty years ago, in terms of quality of life, indebtedness, availability of dependable sources of income, and our vulnerability to massive and entrenched corporations and other forms of private power. The rate of poverty and disease is terrible and it is no surprise that the most unstable violent regions are the poorest, the “left-behind”. Terrorism forces us to acknowledge, at the least, the consequences of far reaching influence, which forces open more economies to ensure growth. The deep penetration into foreign markets means that the inevitable crises increasingly affect the entire world, as we see today.
Although we have undergone a revolution, a severe and challenging one, the notion of a revolution in the romantic sense, driven by the people, seems laughable to most.
However our world faces unprecedented challenges, the environment the most critical. Capitalism could continue for a thousand years uninterrupted, perhaps until the progress made post-Industrial Revolution in terms of human rights were thoroughly reversed (which it had been, the atrocious workplace and living conditions merely shifting from the first to the third world).
Capitalism’s inability to couple a fragile world and limited resources with limitless growth will be its greatest shortcoming and ultimately its downfall. Either that or climate change, ecosystem collapse, and lack of fresh water and our inability to respond will invite Armageddon. Although we are conscious of this looming destruction today, and our most wise augurs preach doom, we ignore the signs: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent; it is the one most capable of change”. (Attributed falsely to Darwin, although it reflects his spirit, but perhaps said by the civil libertarian Clarence Darrow)
So a revolution is needed. When it is least expected. The good old fashioned Che Guevara roll-up-you-sleeves-and-make-it-happen type. But not through violence, and that is why it may succeed. Gandhi asked, why ought the masses fear the few? Even if they control the guns, the words, the press. We control ourselves.
Active thinking. Leads to active action. In a passive world dictated by pro-capitalist propaganda (media, government, advertisements, even school and within centers of religion) active thought will lift the multitudes. And today the guns, the words, the press, are within our control thanks to the Internet. Perhaps the greatest invention since, well, ever? Heralding the modern era – as I like to call it the Age of Humanity. We thrive within a matrix rooted in sporadic potential of the masses – Anarchy – perhaps the greatest evidence of its viability yet.
That is the difference between the passive revolution we have undergone with respect to capitalism and its transformations, and the active revolution we hope for.
We are actors in a struggle that has occurred throughout perhaps the whole of man’s chronology, of the human spirit against convention and form. We are fighting the enigmatic, dark, forces that drove slavery, colonialism, and totalitarianism. We oppose the same war that has always been opposed. However, this time, maybe we have for once the superior weaponry (sporadic potential combined with the power behind countless previous triumphs, the will)
To make our concerns and pursuits coincide with the real world we need change (Obama captured this latent sentiment). It is clear that the government and the private sphere will not solve climate change or hunger, disease, poverty etc. It will take real, voluntary sacrifice. And we must battle for every inch, without fear of reprisal or understanding from those on the sidelines…
“We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.”
– Tupac Shakur